Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year and Happy Disney Trip!

This will most certainly be my last post of 2010 (there's less than five hours left!), and I'd like to thank all of you for making it a wonderful year.  2010 was the year I discovered the Disney community.  2010 was the year I started this blog.  2010 was the year I met tons of amazing people on Twitter and some in person!  2010 was the year I had my most epic Disney trip to date.  2010 was the year I faced my fears and conquered Splash Mountain.  If I have ever spoken to you on Twitter, if you have ever commented on this blog, and even if you've read it without commenting, I am very thankful to have connected with you this year.  Here's to hoping 2011 will be even bigger and better!  I hope I get to meet even more of my Twitter friends and blog readers!  I hope my Disney trips only get more epic!  And I hope my circle of friends and readers grows even more so than it has already.

And speaking of 2011 being bigger and better, I'm kicking it off with another trip to Walt Disney World in just TWO days!  Follow me on Twitter (@discollegeblog) because I'll be posting tons of pictures!  I won't be blogging during this trip at all, but I do anticipate having TONS to blog about when I get back.  So I'll see you all then, and I hope you all have a very happy new year!
 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: Pecos Bill's

Pecos Bill's Ordering Kiosk
I let my sister choose which counter service restaurant I should blog about today, and she chose Pecos Bill's because it's one of her favorites.  And it's one of mine too!  Previously to our most recent trip, I had only ordered burgers there because they're delicious!  But on our last trip, in August, I decided to switch it up and order the infamous "bowl of meat" (more commonly known as taco salad).

Pecos Bill's can get crazy crowded, especially during busy times of year, but the place is huge.  They're one of the few places on property with ordering kiosks (see blurry picture to the left), and I found them very easy to use.  We simply pressed the buttons for what we wanted, and scanned our card through since we were paying with dining plan credits.  Then we took our receipt up to the counter, where they were already putting together our meal.  As I said, I ordered the taco salad, and James ordered the pulled pork sandwich.  Since we were on the dining plan, we were able to order desserts as well, but they weren't great.  The only two choices were yogurt and carrot cake, so we settled for the yogurt.  It was good, but it was nothing exciting.

Blurry photo of my bowl o' meat.
Of course the main event of Pecos Bill's is the fixin's bar.  And the main event of the fixin's bar is the hot cheese.  I love the hot cheese, and I put tons of it on my taco salad.  In fact, as a result of the fixin's bar, be warned that if you order the taco shell, you will be given a large bowl of meat in a big tortilla bowl.  They expect that you'll top it yourself, so don't be alarmed if your taco salad looks a little naked.  I decided to put lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese on my taco salad, while James just took some ketchup for his fries.  Other toppings bar options include other condiments, grilled onions, and pickles.

I have nothing bad to say about our entrees at Pecos Bill's because they were awesome!  In fact, the only negative I could think about for this restaurant is the "meh" dessert options.  But that's certainly no reason to skip it, and most people don't get desserts at counter service restaurants anyway.  Entrees at Pecos Bill's range from $7 to $9, and you can see the menu here on allears.net.

What do you think of Pecos Bill's?  Love it?  Hate it?  Say it Peeeeee-kos Bill's like Matt Hochberg?  What do you usually order?  And do you love the hot cheese as much as I do?  Let me know your thoughts on Pecos Bill's in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

This post was featured in the fifteenth DisMarks.com Disney Blog Carnival! Click the link to see more great Disney articles!
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Tangierine Cafe

Please excuse me if this blog starts to resemble the Disney Food Blog for a week or two.  I am by no means stealing AJ's terrific blog idea.  The thing is, I have a trip coming up in eleven days, and I still have a few topics left over to blog about from my August trip.  And all of those topics are counter service restaurant reviews.  They've all been left so long because I tried to space them out, so the blog wouldn't become a food blog.  But now the clock is ticking, and I'd like to get all or most of the reviews done with before my next trip.  So here's the first part of our two week counter service series: the Tangierine Cafe.

I deemed the tables cute and took a photo.

I was excited to try the Tangierine Cafe because I'd heard many great things about it.  I was also a little wary because I'd never had Moroccan food before, and I can be a very picky eater.  Nevertheless, after our 12:50 ADR at Le Cellier, we were finally hungry again around 8 pm, and since we were waiting around in World Showcase for IllumiNations, I figured it was the perfect time to try this restaurant. 

The first thing I noticed about the Tangierine Cafe is that it's very dissimilar looking to the other counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World.  Inside, it looked like what I assume a take out restaurant would look like in Morocco.  The second thing I noticed was the absolutely adorable tables and chairs (see the above picture).  Anyway, I wasn't feeling overly adventurous, so I decided to try the chicken platter.  James was slightly more adventurous, trying the chicken and lamb combo platter.  Both platters came with hummus, bread, couscous, and a green salad type thing.  The meats were covered with a white sauce.  Also, since we were on the dining plan, our meals came with a dessert of baklava.

My chicken platter.
James' chicken and lamb combo platter.
We took our meals to an outdoor table and sat down, listening to MoRockin in the background.  My favorite part of my meal was the hummus and bread.  The couscous was good, but I wasn't a fan of the green salad.  As for the chicken, I didn't love the white sauce too much.  Also, the chicken was a little too moist for me (although that might have partially been because of the 99% humidity that day).  I wasn't a huge fan of my meal here, and neither was James.  Maybe we're just not Moroccan food people, but we weren't thrilled.  That said, nothing was bad.  It just wasn't our style.  I know for a fact that many love this restaurant, but I guess it just wasn't for us.

Tangierine Cafe is located in Epcot's Morocco pavilion, and the counter service meals range from about $9 to $14 or one counter service dining credit.  The menu can be found here at allears.net.

What do you think of Tangierine Cafe?  Do you love it?  Hate it?  Never tried it?  What do you usually order?  Let me know your thoughts on this Moroccan eatery in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spotlight: Goofy's Candy Company

Gawrsh!  Now that finals are over, I am back again!  Getting ready for Christmas, and getting ready for my next trip to Walt Disney World in less than TWO weeks!  What a wonderful time of the year!  That said, I still have some stuff I wanted to write about from my LAST trip in August, and one of those things is Goofy's Candy Company!

Have you ever been to Goofy's Candy Company?  If you love sweets like me, it's awesome!  There is a ton of candy and sweets, and my favorite part is the make your own treat section.  You can choose your treat base to be an apple, marshmallows, pretzels, and more!  My favorite is the "fudge cookie," which is essentially a giant Oreo.  Yum!  You can then have it dipped in milk chocolate, white chocolate, or caramel.  Then there are topping such as peanuts, M&Ms, and sprinkles.  The first topping is included, and additional toppings cost extra.  Then your treat gets drizzled with even more chocolate!  So delicious!

My make-your-own treat! A fudge cookie with milk chocolate and M&Ms!
To make your own treat, simply go to the counter at Goofy's Candy Company in Downtown Disney, fill out a form, and pay for it.  Then you get to watch the cast members make them!  Prices range from around $3 to $6 for a treat with a dip and one topping.  I believe only the marshmallows (you get four on a stick) are included as a snack on the dining plan.  But the other snacks are totally worth paying cash!  Mine was delicious, and I ate a little each day when we would get back to our resort at night.  I highly recommend them!

Have you ever made a treat at Goofy's Candy Company?  What are your favorite treats and toppings?  Do you buy other sweets and goodies instead?  Let me know what you think about this yummy shop in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wanted: Counter Service Suggestions

A while back, I wrote a post about how counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World can help you expand your horizons, and I do think that I did expand my horizons on our trip.  I tried Tangierine Cafe, Yakitori House, Earl of Sandwich, and more!  Reviews of all these counter service restaurants are coming in the future, but for now, I'm gearing up for my January trip.  Which means I'm back to thinking about counter service and trying new things.  I'd like to try some more new counter service restaurants on this trip, but I really don't know what's the best.

In Magic Kingdom, Pecos Bill's is always our fallback, but I have eaten at Cosmic Ray's as well.  I know that Magic Kingdom isn't known for it's food variety, and I'm not even sure that I want to give up our semi-traditional visit to Pecos Bill's (I really do love it there).  Then again, who couldn't use a change now and again?  As for Epcot, I've tried Electric Umbrella, but I'm looking for something a little... more than that.  I thought Tangierine Cafe and Yakitori House were both okay, and I'm not a fan of the Lotus Blossom Cafe.  But even if I skip all those, there are so many other choices in Epcot!  It's so hard to choose!

I have even less counter service experience in Hollywood Studios.  I've honestly, as far as I can remember, only eaten at Backlot Express because there's really nowhere to eat when it's a million degrees in August!  I'm definitely up for food suggestions here, since January will hopefully make outdoor seating more desirable.  As for Animal Kingdom, I don't recall ever eating counter service here, and I'm not sure that we'll even be in Animal Kingdom for a meal on our upcoming trip.  But I'm open to suggestions to eat here as well!

So it's up to you, readers, to help me out here.  What are your favorite counter service restaurants in the parks?  In the resorts?  In Downtown Disney?  Anywhere!  I'm open to any and all suggestions, so I can make a mental list of places to try.  Let me know your favorites in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook! 
 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

January Trip Schedule!

 It's true, another trip is rapidly approaching for us!  We have a tentative schedule, but it could change at the drop of a hat with my indecisive self in charge of it.  Let me know if you'll be in the area when I'm down; I'd love to have some kind of tweet up!  Anyway, on with the schedule!

Sunday, January 2:  It's cheaper to fly in on the 3rd, but the 3rd is my birthday, and I insisted that it would be a no travel day.  We're flying in on Southwest, and hopefully we'll be at the resort and checked in by 2:30-ish.  We'll probably hit Epcot first and eat at Via Napoli or Beaches and Cream for dinner.  We want to explore the Boardwalk/Beach Club area (especially the Christmas decorations!), and then we'll head over to the Studios for the Osborne Lights.  After our fill of the Lights, we'll probably head over to Magic Kingdom evening extra magic hours for a while until we head back to go to sleep.

Monday, January 3:  My birthday!  I decided that my birthday would be our Epcot rope drop day, since Epcot is my favorite park.  We'll spend at least the first part of the day in Epcot, and then play the rest by ear until dinner.  Thanks to all the suggestions from my readers a while back, we will have dinner at the California Grill, which I am totally excited to try!  Hopefully it'll be a great day!

Tuesday, January 4:  This is our Magic Kingdom day since we have an 8:30 am ADR at Crystal Palace (although I'm secretly aiming to arrive closer to 8:15, so we can get in the park sooner and, after breakfast, on rides sooner).  I may face my fears and ride Space Mountain, and I may not.  Regardless, it will certainly be an excellent day!

Wednesday, January 5:  Hopefully we'll start this day with a Keys to the Kingdom tour!  We haven't booked it yet (James should be booking it tomorrow as his birthday present to me!), but we're hoping for the 9 am tour on this day.  Other than that, we have no concrete plans besides an ADR at Yachtsman for dinner!

Thursday, January 6:  This might be the only day that we really have packed.  We decided that we didn't need a whole day for the Studios (we don't do the big, scary, time-consuming-line rides) or for Animal Kingdom, so we're going to combine them.  We'll hit the Studios first for Toy Story Mania (which was closed during our August trip), Muppets (which was closed from technical difficulties on that trip), and hopefully some of the shows that we didn't get to see in August (because it's far too hot to sit in those outdoor theaters in August).  Then we'll head over to Animal Kingdom to see Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo (both of which I've never seen!).  We're not sure exactly when we're going to transition from the Studios to the Kingdom or even if this plan will work.  For all we know, we'll need a nap after the Studios part and hit up Animal Kingdom another day.  We'll see how that goes.  We also have dinner that night at Kona, and I was hoping we could catch the Electrical Water Pageant after, since we've never seen it.

Friday, January 7:  This is James' 21st birthday, so I decided that his birthday present from me would be dinner at Bistro de Paris (because he loves French food, and it's a present because I would be paying cash, since they don't accept (our free) dining credits).  Other than that, it's up to James.  We really have no plans for the day unless he decides to try to drink around the World.  If he does, I'll be following him around, watching and making sure he doesn't make any bad decisions.  Epcot does have evening extra magic hours this day, so we may be hanging out there for a while.

Saturday, January 8:  Our last full day... already?  This is really an open book day, but we'll probably spend some of it at Epcot since we have a lunch ADR at Le Cellier (the only restaurant on this trip that we've already been to... well except Via Napoli and Beaches and Cream, but we wouldn't use dining credits for those anyway).  Originally I had a dinner ADR at Biergarten for this day (and I still do, but we're not sure if we're going to use it), but we loved our lunch at Le Cellier so much in August, we just needed to go back!  Other than the lunch and the possible dinner, Saturday is really an open book.

Sunday, January 9:  Now it's time to say goodbye...  Disney's Magical Express will be picking us up bright and early to take us back to reality.  Hopefully by then we'll have another trip in our minds, to distract us until next time!

So that's our trip!  IllumiNations will certainly be in there somewhere (possibly multiple times), and I also really want to see Yehaa Bob.  I'm sure we'll also want to go to Downtown Disney for a bit.  We'll play all that stuff by ear, though.  Again, if anyone will be around between January 2 - 9, let me know!

What do you think of my trip schedule?  Too planned?  Not planned enough?  What do you think of my ADRs?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Check it out: MouseVent

Hello lovely readers!  Sorry it's been a while.  Life has temporarily gotten the best of me, but seeing as how I have another Walt Disney World trip coming up in 27 days, I need to finish the blog posts about my August trip!  About time, right?  But before all that, I have something a little more time sensitive to write about today...


Have you heard of MouseVent yet?  If you haven't, you certainly need to read this!  MouseVent is an "audio advent calendar for Disney fans."  For those of you who aren't Christmas-celebrators, advent calendars are countdowns to Christmas where children often get some type of candy or treat on each day leading up to December 25th.  In this case however, every day in December until Christmas day (December 25), there is a new audio clip from your favorite Disney personalities.

MouseVent contributors so far have included the Inside the Magic podcast, the Wedway Radio podcast, and the Disney-famous Yehaa Bob Jackson!  With a line-up like that, how can you go wrong?  Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you should listen to MouseVent!  To listen to MouseVent, either visit mousevent.com each day or subscribe on iTunes.  Subscribing is easiest since the new podcasts will download automatically.  You can also follow MouseVent on Twitter and read an interview with MouseVent creator Alan Hooper at my friend's blog, The Dragyn's Lair.  I'm loving MouseVent so far, and I hope you'll check it out and enjoy it as well!

Have you been listening to MouseVent?  Are you going to start now?  Who have been your favorite contributors so far?  Let me know your thoughts on this innovative advent calendar in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Disney Goes Gowalla

Image from the Disney Parks Blog
I'm sure you're all aware of this (if the 70 Gowalla friend requests I got in the past 24 hours mean anything), but the Disney Parks Blog announced yesterday that Disney and Gowalla are teaming up together.  Yes, this means that my post from last week is no longer up-to-date, since I mentioned Foursquare in depth and Gowalla not at all, but I'm willing to overlook that for this HUGE step that Disney is taking.  They are truly embracing technology, and this is one of those times that I really think that Disney does listen to us.  We want to check in, we want cool badges, and we think this is awesome!  Or at least I do.

The one thing that I wasn't a huge fan of is that they went with Gowalla over Foursquare.  I do understand why they did it (thanks to Cliff's insight in the Betamouse Friendfeed room), what with the fact that you can add pictures to your check-ins.  Also, there this cool feature on Gowalla called "trips," where you can create a trip that consists of multiple locations, and then (I assume) you get a special badge (pin?  stamp?  whatever they're called on Gowalla) when you've checked into the different parts of that "trip."  And it looks like Disney's created some cool trips, along with tons of unique badges.  It's awesome, but I prefer my good old Foursquare.

I was having some issues with Gowalla when I first tried it out yesterday (it wouldn't let me check-in to a place I was at because it thought I was too far away), but I'd like to think that all the bugs will be worked out if you used it in Walt Disney World.  I also would like to think that there could, eventually, be real rewards for checking into places, like a discount for checking into a restaurant or store or even a cool real-life sticker or badge.  I think this Disney plus Gowalla thing has some real potential, and I honestly hope that Disney does more with it.  Though I'd probably be perfectly happy just to use it, even if they left it alone.  Way to go, Disney.  I'm proud of you.

What do you think about the Disney/Gowalla announcement?  Did you join/download immediately like many others?  Are you excited to try it out?  Or do you not plan on using it?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ride Wimp 2: Space Mountain

Image from DisneyWorld.com
Some of you readers may remember back in May when I confessed that I was afraid to ride Splash Mountain.  I really wanted to ride it because I was in love with the audio, but I was terrified.  Somehow I overcame that fear, and I conquered it!  I even liked most of it, except for the jerky part in the dark.  And speaking of jerky things in the dark, my next fear is Space Mountain.

I almost rode Space Mountain courtesy of a friend's very persuasive children, but a 70 minute wait bailed me out of that one.  Nevertheless, it made me think:  if a five year old isn't afraid to ride Space Mountain, why am I?  Well, honestly, it's the darkness probably.  The fact that I can't see where I'm going freaks me out.  Roller coasters freak me out in general, and I figure that added to the dark factor just makes it bad news for me.  I mean, the short dark jerky part of Splash Mountain sometimes makes me rethink riding that (the long drop, ironically, didn't bother me).  Also, I can't sit next to James, so he can't hold me in my seat (I really dislike being thrown around, which is another reason I often skip roller coasters, and I hear Space Mountain is really jerky).  So I suppose being alone plus disliking roller coasters plus the darkness.  But I am sort of curious what I'm missing.  And I do sort of want to conquer it just for the sake of conquering it.  And then I could have officially completed the Triple Mountain Whammy.

So what do you think?  Should I just stop being a baby and ride the darn thing?  Are my fears well founded, and I shouldn't push myself?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Social Media in the Parks

One of the new great things about going to Disney parks is the social media aspect.  Ten years ago, you probably went to a Disney park, shared the experience with a friend or two or your family, and maybe took some pictures.  Now, the whole experience is much different.

If you've spent any reasonable amount of time on Twitter, you see that people are always tweeting from the parks.  Whether it's Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or a lucky duck in an international park, you'd be hard pressed to find a day where someone isn't tweeting from a Disney location.  When you're on the tweeting end, however, it can make a trip so much more fun.  There's nothing like tweeting a picture of Spaceship Earth and getting five responses in ten minutes.  And who else can really understand how thrilled you are to be walking right down the middle of Main Street USA?  And I can personally say that it's amazing how many people that were strangers a year ago care about which Vinylmation figures you bought and traded.  My Twitter followers are my friends, and tweeting from the parks is a blast (especially on long, boring bus rides!).

Then there's Foursquare.  It hit the big time a few months ago, and now it seems to be fading out a bit.  In the parks, however, it's so much fun.  I was thrilled to the get "I'm on a boat" badge on a Friendship Boat, and others were thrilled when I checked into my first park of the trip:  Disney's Hollywood Studios.  My friends could respond if I was checked in at Epcot to get a kaki-gori because they couldn't, and they could wish they were me when I checked into my lunch at Le Cellier.  Plus, I could go back to my Foursquare history and see exactly what I did, even if I didn't broadcast it on Twitter.  Now that's awesome.

And finally, there's Ustream.  Ustream is another big thing I used on my last trip to Walt Disney World.  It started with streaming the Main Street Electrical Parade, which, despite a technical issue that caused the first half of the parade to have no picture, was a big hit.  I also streamed the Main Street Trolley show and the Voices of Liberty.  People at home could see what I was seeing, and when I got home, I could go back and watch the videos I shot.  I had decided that I love when people stream from the parks, so I wanted to do the same.  And so I did.  Hopefully any of you who watched enjoyed.

Twitter, Foursquare, and Ustream are just of the few social media outlets used in Disney parks.  Which are your favorites?  Do you ever unplug and spend a trip without social media?  Do you agree that sharing your experiences on these outlets makes a trip even more fun?  Let me know your opinions in a comment, a tweet, or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Food Spotlight: Burgers

Beaches and Cream burger, healthy stuff removed, of course.
There's nothing like a good burger when you're at Walt Disney World.  Although people say that the burgers are the same everywhere, I must disagree.  I've had burgers at many counter service locations in the World, and I must say, I have two big favorites.

Beaches and Cream, Beach Club Resort.  This is a table service restaurant at counter service prices.  I visited this restaurant for the first time in August, and I thought it was awesome.  Most people come here for the ice cream, but the burgers are awesome too!  You can order a single or double burger, and both are priced quite well.  There are also other entrees for the non-burger inclined.  The only warning I have is not to use credits here if you're on the dining plan.  You can get a much better value elsewhere.  At Beaches and Cream, shell out the nine dollars in cash or charge it to your room... you'll be saving yourself money in the long run if you use your credits somewhere more expensive.

Pecos Bill's, Magic Kingdom.  This counter service venue is probably a legend for people looking for good burgers.  The patties are 1/3 pounders, and you can get the epic Angus burger that has bacon and onion rings on top.  Yes, that's right... onion rings on top of your 1/3 pound burger.  Plus, there's the famous topping bar where you can top your burger with everything from lettuce to pickles to the deliciously terrible hot cheese.  You can not go wrong with a meal at Pecos Bill's, and especially not if that meal is a burger.  Another warning for dining plan guests: I have been known to use counter service credits here, but if the dessert portion of the meal is important to you, know that your only choices at Pecos Bill's are strawberry yogurt and carrot cake.

So there are two amazing places to get burgers.  Where are your favorite burgers located?  Do you agree with my choices, or do you have some different opinions?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Magical Moment

In today's post, since I didn't have a very magical Thursday, I just wanted to share a magical moment with you all that happened on our recent trip to Walt Disney World.  It was the last night of our trip, we had just eaten at Jiko, and we didn't have the best meal.  I was feeling kind of down about the whole thing, since not only was it our most expensive meal, but it was the meal I was most looking forward to.  Since it was around 9 pm, and the only park still open was the Magic Kingdom, we'd have to transfer there to get back to our resort (All Star Music) from the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Overall, we weren't enthused about this, especially after our disappointment of a dinner and the exhaustion of the end of our trip weighing on us. 

When we saw an Animal Kingdom bus pull up to the Lodge, I thought it might be possible to take that bus back to the Animal Kingdom, so we could transfer there.  I knew Animal Kingdom had closed much earlier, but I figured it was a possibility.  Unfortunately, once everyone was let out of the bus, the driver closed the doors and stepped outside to talk to those of us waiting outside his bus (us and one other family).  The other family spoke to him first, and they asked him how to best get back to Caribbean Beach.  He directed them to transfer at Downtown Disney, and I assumed he'd do the same for us.  Despite this, we asked him the best way to get back to All Star Music anyway.  He looked at us and said Downtown Disney was very far out of the way to get to the All Stars.  Then he told us to hop on his bus, and he'd drive us back to our resort.  And this kind bus driver proceeded to drive James and I back.  This was honestly such a magical moment; I couldn't believe it!  For all we knew, this bus driver was probably done with his shift for the day, yet he went out of his way to drive us directly from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to All Star Music.  Thanks so much, kind bus driver!  It really was a magical moment for us!

Have you had any magical moments at Walt Disney World?  What magical occurrences happened on your trips?  Share your moments in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Jiko

The napkin at Jiko
I was incredibly excited about visiting Jiko, but unfortunately, I must say, I didn't have the best time.  I'm hardly joking when I said I absolutely dreamed about the oak grilled filet with mac and cheese (note: the mac and cheese is no longer a part of this dish, but it is still a side dish on the menu that can be ordered in addition) before our trip, but this dream turned out worse than expected.  This was supposed to be the most amazing meal of our trip, and it was our first signature dining experience.  Yes, our expectations were high, but they were also high for Le Cellier, where we were not disappointed.  But anyway, on to the review, and you can see where our dinner went wrong...

We arrived at Jiko around ten minutes before our ADR time, and we were seated almost immediately.  We learned that the restaurant had the largest selection of South African wines in the world (not that either of us were old enough to drink it), and we were given our menus.  Jiko is very romantic, and it is a perfect place for a date night.  It's dark but not too dark, and the servers are excellent (or at least ours was).  We ordered the Taste of Africa as an appetizer, which is an assortment of breads served with three dipping sauces (one was hummus; I can't remember the other two).  We also each ordered the filet with mac and cheese, cooked medium.

The Taste of Africa was excellent.  It was so interesting to try the different dipping sauces, and the bread was great.  The appetizer was $9, and it was totally worth paying out of pocket, since we were on the dining plan.  Then our entrees came out.  The first thing I did was taste the mac and cheese, which was awesome.  Then I cut my steak open.  I had ordered it medium, and it was bright red inside.  There is no way to describe it but rare.  Honestly, I'd rather them have cook it all the way to well done than eat it rare.  I do not like rare meat.  I felt bad, but I decided to send it back, and our server was very apologetic.  At this point, he brought us little salad appetizers compliments of the chef because of our troubles, but I noticed that many other tables also had that appetizer, also complimentary.  Some hadn't even ordered yet, so it couldn't be because of kitchen mistakes.  It made me wonder if we were treated differently because we were young, which is not a thought I often have at a place known for it's service like Walt Disney World.

Anyway, my second attempt at the filet came out, and unfortunately, this one turned out to be rare upon cutting it also.  I honestly didn't want to delay our dinner any more, so I simply decided I would eat it.  This is where Disney service truly shined, however.  Our server came by to make sure I was happy with it, and I said I was.  I didn't want to bother him with the fact that it was still wrong.  But he noticed that it was still bright red inside and tried to convince me to send it back another time.  The fact that he was honestly concerned (or at least it sure seemed like it) that I wouldn't enjoy my meal made me a little happier about the situation.  I ate the less-rare edges of the filet, and I ate the mac and cheese, but this certainly wasn't the best meal of our trip.

This may be slightly of topic, but many people say Le Cellier shouldn't be going back to two table service credits.  I could honestly say that our meal there was 100 times better than our two credit meal at Jiko.  The steak there was perfect, and everything was delicious.  At Jiko, we were just disppointed.  I'm hoping it was just a rough night, and I hope that I do get to try Jiko again in the future.  That said, I probably won't be returning for a while.  Luckily I'll be trying other signature dining experiences in January.

What do you think about Jiko?  Was my experience just a fluke?  Is it true that Jiko has been getting more bad reviews lately?  What do you usually order at Jiko?  Let me know what you think about this restaurant in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nighttime Spectacular Showdown

Image from AllEars.net
Inspired by episode 790 of WDW Today, I've been listening to music from various fireworks shows all night.  And they've gotten me to thinking about all the amazing fireworks in Walt Disney World.  Between Wishes, IllumiNations, and Fantasmic, you can hardly go anywhere without seeing fireworks at night (well, except Animal Kingdom, but I get it, animal safety), and fireworks have become such a huge part of the Walt Disney World experience.

First there's IllumiNations.  This is my favorite of the three "nighttime spectaculars."  The music is epic, the fireworks are epic, it's just an all around epic show.  And I truly believe that it has the most repeat value.  I can watch IllumiNations every night and never get bored of it.  It's always amazing.  This was the second Disney fireworks show James had ever seen on our trip in 2009, and after seeing Wishes the night before, he was blown away by IllumiNations.  I mean Wishes is good, but for a big fireworks fan like him, IllumiNations is awesome.  Plus the boats go on fire!  Plus the IllumiNations dance party preshow music!  Seriously, you can't go wrong here.

Next there's Fantasmic.  Fantasmic and Wishes may be tied as second favorite because I both like them for such different reasons.  It's really hard to compare.  Plus Fantasmic loses some points because it's so hard to get in to see it.  This past August was my first time ever seeing Fantasmic.  I had tried so hard the year before, but it rained out.  Honestly, this year it was worth the hour long wait in the heat, even if I was way closer than I ever wanted to be to 5000 of my closest friends.  When it ended, all James could say was "that was awesome!"  But personally it probably doesn't have the repeat value that IllumiNations has for me.  Even if I could walk right in and get a perfect seat, I'm not sure I would want to see it every night.  One awesome thing about IllumiNations is that you can watch it from all around World Showcase lagoon.  For Fantasmic, you have you purposefully walk alllll the way down to the theater.  And even though the show is epic, the story is epic, and Mickey, of course, is epic, it just doesn't match up to my classic favorite of IllumiNations.

And finally, Wishes.  There's something so quintessentially Disney about Wishes that I just can't truly rank it below Fantasmic.  IllumiNations has the fireworks, Fantasmic has the story, but Wishes really has the Disney factor.  It feels so magical, and it gives me the chills even just listening to the music.  The fireworks are absolutely spectacular, but there's something about ending your night in front of the castle that makes you truly believe all your wishes will come true.  And that fact is why I, as well as so many other people, love Wishes.

What are your favorites of the three fireworks shows?  Do you agree or disagree with my opinions?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Food Spotlight: Hummus

There's hummus in the different platters at Tangierine Cafe
I recently became rather obsessed with hummus, and I couldn't get enough of it when we went to Walt Disney World.  Luckily, I came across it no less than three times in various settings, so if you're a hummus lover like me, here's where to look...

First, we had dinner at the Tangierine Cafe one night, since I'd heard great things about it.  There's a review on this counter service location coming some time in the future, but almost all of the platters (excluding the wraps) contain hummus.  Plus fresh Moroccan bread.  Can you say yum?  And since it's counter service, this is a great place to get hummus when you don't want to sit down for a table service meal.

A few days later, we had an ADR for Boma.  I did a full review of this table service buffet last week, but one of the highlights of the buffet for me was the hummus.  There were three different types, and there were many types of breads to sample as well.  I went back for the hummus at least three times while we were there!  Unfortunately I'm having a hard time remembering the types of hummus, but if I'm not mistaken, one was a black olive hummus.  They were all very good, at least from a hummus lover's perspective!

Finally, on the last night of our trip, we ate at Jiko.  A review for Jiko is coming in the very, very near future, and although we didn't have the best experience at the restaurant, I loved the hummus!  We decided to order the Taste of Africa appetizer, which is described as a "trio of dips with assorted breads and house-made naan."  Luckily for me, one of the dips was hummus!  I believe the hummus served was one of the same types I had tried at Boma earlier in the week, but that wasn't a bad thing!  I honestly can't seem to remember the other two dips (I really have to start taking notes on this stuff!), but they were all delicious!  And the bread was great also!  The appetizer was $9 well spent for us!

Overall, there are more places than you may expect to get hummus at Walt Disney World.  These are just three I came across in one week at the World, perhaps there are more!  Are you a hummus fan?  Where do you get hummus in the parks or at the resorts?  Have you tried the hummus at any of the places I mentioned?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Disney's Boardwalk: A College Student's Perspective

Image (c) James
I had known for a while that Disney had a Boardwalk area at the Boardwalk Resort, but I had never been there until our August trip.  I have been to the real Atlantic City Boardwalk many times, and though I knew that's what Disney's was based off of, I also knew that Disney's Boardwalk was a pre-casino rendition of Atlantic City's, which I had never seen.  I was sort of clueless about Disney's Boardwalk, so I did what any podcast loving Disney fan would do when they had a question: I emailed WDW Today.

I asked the guys of WDW Today how long they thought two college students, too young to drink, would probably spend on the Boardwalk and what they would do.  The guys said we could spend a few hours at most, and we would mostly just walk around, enjoy the sights, and that's about it.  And that was pretty accurate.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, maybe something more like Downtown Disney, but Disney's Boardwalk was just what it said it was - a boardwalk.  There were some street entertainers that were quite interesting, but none took very much of our time.  We strolled in and out of some of the stores and such, but that didn't take much time either.  And we took lots of pictures and enjoyed the atmosphere.  It really was beautiful and very romantic as it started to get dark, but it certainly wasn't a huge attraction in itself.

Overall, I think Disney's Boardwalk is a nice area, especially if you're staying at one of the Epcot resorts.  It's nice to visit, to take pictures, and to enjoy the atmosphere.  It's not somewhere you can spend copious amounts of time, however, if you're looking for something very stimulating.  It's sort of relaxing, and I can certainly see staying for quite a while if you were having dinner or spending time at Jelly Rolls or the Atlantic Dance Hall, but the guys of WDW Today were right.  We spent about an hour on the Boardwalk, and then we moved on to Hollywood Studios.  It was a nice experience, but it wasn't super exciting.

What do you think of Disney's Boardwalk?  Do you make it a point to visit every trip or just if you have a reason to be in the Epcot resort area?  Do you spend a lot of time there, or do you just spend an hour or two taking in the sights like James and I did?  Or have you never been to the Boardwalk area at all?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

This post is part of the 13th DisMarks.com Disney Blog Carnival!  Click the link to see more great Disney articles!
 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Boma

The only decent picture I took at Boma - boo!
I had very mixed feelings about Boma going in.  On one hand, I was excited because many people rave about Boma.  On the other hand, I was nervous because I can tend to be a picky eater.  That's one thing I like about buffets, though.  Even picky eaters can find things they like.  Plus they can feel free to try new things without having to order an entire entree.

We were a little late to Boma because of the whole Disney transportation doesn't go from resort to resort thing.  Plus it was raining.  But despite all that, we finally made it to Animal Kingdom Lodge, which I had never stepped foot in before that day.  All I can say is that we'd hardly entered the lobby when I gasped, "We have to stay here one day."  The resort is absolutely beautiful, and I'd say it's worth a trip even if you don't have an ADR.  Honestly, the resort is an attraction in itself.  It's breathtaking, and the savannah outside is just perfect.  Full of giraffes - my favorite animal!

Anyway, back to the food, we arrived at Boma a bit late, but we were taken in roughly 10 or 15 minutes.  We were seated at around the same time as a mom and young girl at the table next to us, so our server came up to both of us at the same time.  They had been to Boma before, but we hadn't, so he explained a little about the different stations and such.  Apparently Boma is the biggest buffet in any Disney park around the world, and there really is a huge selection.  Tons of different types of meats, soups, sides - anything you can think of!  There were three different types of hummus with different types of bread to go with it, and I visited that station several times.  Yum!  And then there was a fairly huge dessert station in case you weren't already stuffed.  This included the famous Zebra Domes, some passion fruit and/or mango domes that James simply loved, and some delicious apple cobbler type food.  For kids or less adventurous eaters, there's also a station with foods like mac and cheese and chicken fingers.  There's really something for everyone here!

Boma really was quite good, and as I said before, I loved that I could try one bite of this and one bite of that.  One of the reasons I usually don't try new things is that I don't want to waste a whole meal if I don't like it.  But you don't have to worry about that at a buffet!  If you're considering Boma, I'd say it's definitely worth a try if you can afford it (it is rather expensive at $30.88 per adult and $14.99 per child for dinner).  As for me, I do hope to return in the near future, though there are some restaurants I'd like to try for a first time before I head back to Boma.

Have you ever been to Boma?  What was your opinion on the restaurant or why have you shied away?  What were your favorite items in the buffet?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook.
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Check it out: Disney Tweetwatches

I'm not going to lie and say the Disney community doesn't amaze me on a regular basis because it does.  But one of the newest amazing things I've learned about recently is Disney tweetwatches.  You see, everyone gets together, watches a movie at the same time, and chats (or tweets) about it!  I just attended my first tweetwatch on Monday, and it was a blast!

Disney tweetwatches are run by Ryan from the Disney Film Project.  His blog is about watching all of the short and feature length films from the Walt Disney Company, and sometimes he shares the actual watching with his readers and friends.  He has tons of interesting knowledge about the different films, and he shares his facts during the tweetwatches!

The tweetwatch process is really very simple.  First, you are encouraged to "count yourself in" to the tweetwatch on Plancast (that link is for the next tweetwatch: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad).  Then you make sure you have the movie.  If you don't, you can either buy it, rent it, or watch it on Netflix if it is available.  Before the specified time (the next one is October 25 at 8:30 pm), head over to the tweetwatch Friendfeed room or get yourself set up on Twitter.  Then Ryan will say go, and everyone starts their movies!  And talks about them!  And has a great time!

Disney tweetwatches are an awesome time, and I highly encourage people to join in!  To get full information about the tweetwatches, follow Ryan on Twitter, follow the Disney Film Project blog, and for information on the Ichabod and Mr. Toad tweetwatch, head over to this page.  Then tune in and enjoy!

Have you participated in a tweetwatch?  Do you want to?  Which tweetwatches have your participated in?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Food Spotlight: Kaki-gori

Image (c) James

While on our August trip to Walt Disney World, someone asked me if my visit was different now that I had entered the Disney community.  It was, and one of the biggest ways was that I was informed of things I never would have thought twice about otherwise.  I never would have tried Tangierine Cafe or Beaches and Cream if I hadn't been a part of the Disney community.  I never would have been encouraged to ride Splash Mountain for the first time.  And, possibly most important of all, I never would have tried kaki-gori.

Kaki-gori may be essentially a snow cone, but it is literally the most delicious frozen treats I have ever enjoyed in my life.  I swear, I dream about kaki-gori!  My favorite is the cherry flavor, and I have a goal to buy a kaki-gori every time I pass the stand on my next trip.  The kaki-gori is located at its own little stand by the big pagoda in the Japan pavilion in Epcot.  According to allears.net, it is $3.28, and it is also a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan, though, deceivingly, it didn't say that on the sign when we were there.

The kaki-gori stand is extremely easy to walk past without a thought.  I wonder how many times in my life I did just that, even though the line can get very long on hot days.  But it definitely shouldn't be missed.  It is not your every day snow cone.  And it's pretty big, so you may want to share with a friend or family member!  Enjoy!

Have you ever had kaki-gori at Epcot?  Do you love it as much as I do?  What's your favorite flavor?  Let me know your thoughts on this delicious treat in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Via Napoli

Margherita Pizza - Yum!
I've been so excited to write this review, and I'm so glad I'm getting to it!  Via Napoli was one of our favorite meals this trip.  Probably second only to Le Cellier.  For those who are unaware, Via Napoli is the new table service restaurant in Epcot's Italy Pavilion.  They specialize in pizza (possibly the first really good pizza in Walt Disney World?), but they also serve many other Italian dishes.  Though we were on the Disney Dining Plan on our last trip, we chose to pay out of pocket for this meal, so we stuck with only entrees (pizzas!) and sodas.  Perhaps next time we'll need to try some appetizers and desserts, but what we had was absolutely delicious!

I should probably begin this post with the fact that I had very low expectations for Via Napoli.  In fact, I wasn't sure if I wanted to visit the restaurant at all.  All our dining credits already had ADRs, so we would be paying out of pocket.  And as New Yorkers, we were used to good pizza and not used to paying so much for it.  $16 for an individual pie seemed ridiculous, but a friend told us that the pizza was excellent and the servers were easy on the eyes.  So we decided to give it a try on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Quattro formaggi!  Four cheese!
At the time, Via Napoli was only accepting walk-ups, and at 1 pm, we waited only about ten minutes for a table.  I'm curious how walk-ups are going now that they are accepting ADRs.  Once we were seated, we looked over our menus, and I decided on the Margherita Pizza.  James chose the quattro formaggi, based on the many rave reviews I'd told him about.  Both of us were beyond pleased with our meals.  We had planned on sharing the two pizzas, but I didn't want to give up mine, and he didn't want to give up his!  We did end up trying each other's meals, but we largely stuck with our own.  The pizzas were phenomenal.  Nothing like New York pizza, but I didn't expect Margherita pizza to be like that anyway.  This was a true, traditional Italian pizza.  The quattro formaggi was also delicious - four cheeses with no tomato sauce.  It was a fantastic meal!

Once we were really there, the price really didn't bother us.  Honestly, where else in Walt Disney World can you get a delicious, sit down meal for $16 per person?  Not many places!  What I had initially thought would be a rip-off turned out to be a great value!  Via Napoli was definitely a place I want to visit again, and I hope you all get a chance to try it! It was molto bene!  Check out the menu here!

Have you been to Via Napoli?  If so, what did you order, and how did you like it?  If not, are you going to try to visit in the future?  Let me know what you think about this new restaurant in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Update: Our second trip to Via Napoli was, unfortunately, not as great as the first.  I would still recommend it, but beware of inconsistency.
 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Check it Out: Lines

One of the things I was most excited to try on our recent August trip was Lines.  Lines is a mobile wait time application that you can access on your iPhone, Android phone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, WinMo phone, etc.  It's produced by Touring Plans, and it is likely one of your biggest assets on a trip to Walt Disney World, second only to the touring plans themselves.

To access Lines, you can download the app for free in Apple's App Store or Android's Market.  On other smartphones, you can access the app at m.touringplans.com.  Though the app itself is free, features are limited without a paid account to touringplans.com.  The subscription to the site is totally worth it, though, giving you access to the awesome crowd calendar and tons of touring plans, in addition to full Lines access.  And you get a 50% discount on the already inexpensive membership if you own a current version of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.  (I swear Touring Plans isn't paying me; I just seriously love all their products.)

Once you sign up and sign in, you can truly see all of Lines' awesomeness.  The two most important things being that you can see the estimated wait times for every ride in all four theme parks (including FastPass info), and you can see estimated future wait times.  In Animal Kingdom and wondering if Magic Kingdom will be crowded later?  Just pull out your phones and check Lines.  You can also submit wait times, get badges, and post them to Twitter.  It's like Foursquare for Walt Disney World!  Other functions of Lines include the next ten days of the crowd calendar right on your phone (though remember, you get the full 365 day calendar online with your Touring Plans subscription) and an awesome chat with other Lines users!

Lines is seriously an amazing app, and it seriously helped us in the parks!  We could check if the lines were long on the opposite side of a park or in another park completely to decide if it was worth it to head over or not.  Now Lines even has show times right in the app, so you don't even need a times guide!  With Lines in one hand and a touring plan in the other, you'd better bet you'll be touring efficiently and breezing through queues without waiting.

Have you used Lines?  What do you think of it?  What are your favorite features?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

 This post was featured in the twelfth DisMarks.com Disney Blog Carnival!  Click the link for more great Disney articles!
 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Food Spotlight: Dole Whip

My first Dole Whip float!

Back in April, the month of this blog's birth, I made a confession:  I had never had a Dole Whip.  I had heard all about them, yet I had never actually tried one myself.  For those who are unaware, Dole Whips are practically famous for their deliciousness in the Disney community.  A Dole Whip is pineapple soft serve ice cream that can only be found in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Hawaii (or so I'm told).  At Walt Disney World, they can only be found in two places: Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland, where they are served in pineapple, orange, and vanilla flavors, and can be floated on top of pineapple juice (called a Dole Whip float), and at the Polynesian Resort's counter service restaurant, Captain Cook's.

Most people get their Dole Whips at Aloha Isle because it is much more accessible for the average park guest than Captain Cook's.  I was lucky enough to have a Dole Whip Float at Aloha Isle and a Dole Whip at Captain Cook's on our recent August trip.  I must say, the hype is definitely true!  They were absolutely delicious... a must-try for anyone who likes pineapple!  I preferred the Dole Whip without the pineapple juice, but the juice was good as well, especially on a hot day.  In fact, the only downside to getting a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle is having to eat it outside, where the ice cream tends to melt instantly.  The Dole Whip was much more filling than I had expected, and both times I actually had to throw it out partially eaten because I was full before I finished it!

A regular Dole Whip is $2.89, and a float is $3.99.  Both are one snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan, and you can get a regular Dole Whip as your dessert with a quick service credit meal at Captain Cook's.  As I said, you must try a Dole Whip if you're at the Magic Kingdom or the Polynesian.  You won't regret it!

Have you had a Dole Whip?  What do you think of them?  Do you get the classic, pineapple version?  Do you prefer the regular Dole Whip or the Dole Whip float?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review: Akershus

Akershus was James' and my first character meal since we were kids, so we (or at least I) were very excited to dine with princesses!  Once we checked in to the restaurant (a bit late, due to a bus issue), we were taken in immediately to a nook inside where Belle stood, waiting for us.  We took a picture with her and were then escorted to our table.  If there's one thing that I'm not a huge fan of at Akershus, it's that Belle's the one that you take your required picture with.  I wish she'd come around to the tables for more interaction!  She is my favorite, you know!

Anyway, Akershus does a family style breakfast with a buffet element.  To start, you are encouraged to visit the cold buffet that features pastries, cold meats, fresh fruit, and Lingonberry muffins (yum!).  The muffins are amazing, and I enjoyed having some of the meats as well.  Once you've satisfied your cold buffet cravings, a hot plate is brought out to your table, as seen in the picture to the left.  It contains bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and some kind of home fry/hash brown thing.  The plate is to share with your party, although I assume larger parties would get more than one plate, and I'm sure there are seconds for those that desire them.  Plus you can always go back up to the cold buffet for more Lingonberry muffins (seriously, delicious!).

The hot food at Akershus was your average Disney breakfast food... nothing special there.  The buffet, however, is where you get your diversity.  The cold meats include some fish, salami, and other types of meats.  The pastries included some danishes, breads, and of course, the muffins!  If you're looking for real diversity, you'd be better off visiting Akershus for lunch or dinner.  On the other hand, if, like us, you want a princess meal without being nervous about the Norwegian food, breakfast is where it's at.

And the princesses are the main event, of course!  We were very lucky to be able to meet Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella!  If you include meeting Belle during our entrance, we got the fab five of princesses!  Each princess came over, signed my autograph book, got pictures with us, and commented on how James better be a good prince.  So cute!  Plus, Belle "gave us a gift" of an awesome photo package, featuring the photo from our entrance.  The package included four 4x6 photos and an 8x10 in a cardboard frame!  Honestly, this may beat Cinderella's Royal Table.  For breakfast, we got a buffet/family style meal, a pretty extensive photo package, and five awesome princesses for $28.99 or one table service credit per adult.  Can you say worth it?

Akershus was an amazing character meal, and it was an amazing chance to meet some characters that you're not super likely to find in the parks without hunting them down.  I mean how often do you get to see Belle in her golden dress without waiting on line?  We got autographs and pictures, and although we were on the dining plan, I believe it's worth the cash as well.  You can find the menus for Akershus breakfast, lunch, and dinner at allears.net, and even the least adventurous eaters will have a blast at the breakfast.  Now we can't wait for our next character meal:  Crystal Palace in January!

Have you ever been to Akershus?  What did you think of it?  Was it worth the money to you?  Let me know your opinions in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Christmas in January?

Our next trip to Walt Disney World will be at the very beginning of January, but it falls at the very end of the "Christmas season."  We will be missing Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candlelight Processional, but many decorations will likely still be up, including the Osborne Lights.  Also, Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade will be playing during the first two days of our trip.  Which makes me ask the question, how can I best see the remaining Christmas things before they are taken down?  This will definitely require prioritizing, since I will likely have only a day or two to see all the Christmas decorations before they start becoming fewer and fewer.  But what do I prioritize?

The Osborne Lights are a definite.  I've heard that they are awesome, and I definitely want to see them.  We'll likely do that on our first night at Walt Disney World.  As for the other things, I'm sort of unfamiliar.  I've never been to Disney during the holiday season, and since I have to prioritize, as well as fit two birthdays into the (already busy!) trip, I'm not sure what to do.

As for Magic Kingdom, the castle lights will likely still be up for the first few days of our trip  Since I plan on being at the Magic Kingdom at least one night for sure, I'm not worried about seeing that.  At Epcot, I know there is a Christmas tag to the end of IllumiNations, but I'm not sure if that will still be going on in January.  (Do any of you know?)  Hollywood Studios has the Osborne Lights, and Animal Kingdom has Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.  This parade is really throwing me for a loop.  I know the seasonal parades tend to be awesome (Boo to You anyone?), but I'm not sure I want to take time out of my birthday to go over to the Animal Kingdom just to see this parade.  My birthday, however, is the only possible day to see this parade on our trip...

Then there are the resorts.  We'd likely be checking out the Beach and Yacht Club as well as the Boardwalk on our first day, regardless of whether or not there were decorations.  Luckily, these resorts will hopefully have great decorations.  Additionally, I've heard that many other resorts have great decorations as well, but it's hard to clear out time so early in our busy schedules for resort hopping just for decorations.  Is it really worth the time to see the decorations at various resorts?

This blog post is all over the place because my thoughts on this topic are all over the place.  There are so many Christmas-y things to fit into just a few, already busily planned, birthday filled days.  Which are the most important to see?  Is Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade really worth the trip over?  Will IllumiNations still have the Christmas tag in early January?  Are there any absolute must-see resort decorations?  I really do need your help with these questions, so please let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Main Street Electrical Parade vs. SpectroMagic

Image from DisneyWorld.com

In honor of my appearance on today's episode of the Be Our Guest Podcast, I'd like to discuss and explain something we talked about on the episode: my opinions on the Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP) vs. SpectroMagic.

2009 was the first time I ever saw any nighttime parade at Magic Kingdom (well, really at any park), and it was SpectroMagic.  It being my first time seeing something like that, I was absolutely enthralled.  I love Spectro, and I was actually a little sad that I wouldn't be seeing it on our recent trip in August.  But I was willing to try a new parade, and we saw the Main Street Electrical Parade for the first (and second) time.  I really liked it, but I have to say... I like Spectro better.

I believe that there are two main reasons that I like Spectro more than MSEP.  First of all, I don't have the nostalgia factor that a lot of people associate with MSEP.  I had never seen it before August, so I had no emotional connection to it.  Unlike many people who saw MSEP as a kid and want to share it with their family and friends, I have more of a nostalgic connection with Spectro, since it was the first light parade I ever saw.  I really loved Spectro, and I still do.

The two parades are very different, and I like them for different reasons.  On one hand, MSEP is really fun, and it makes you want to clap and dance and be happy.  The music is great, and it gets stuck in your head for days.  Spectro, on the other hand, is more magical, to me at least.  And that's the second reason I love Spectro so much.  To me, Disney is all about the magic, and I really feel like Spectro brings this out to its fullest.  From the white lights changing to color to the soundtrack, Spectro is more magical than fun, and I'll take the trade-off.  I mean, it's not like Spectro's not fun too!  It amazed me the first time I saw it, and I hope that it comes back to Walt Disney World soon.  I miss it!

What do you think about the Magic Kingdom nighttime parades?  Do you prefer the Main Street Electrical Parade or SpectroMagic?  Do you prefer any of the other special parades?  (Boo to You has been in my head all weekend even though I've never seen it in person.)  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!  And listen to me talking with Mike and Rikki on episode 269 of the Be Our Guest Podcast!

This post is part of the eleventh DisMarks.com Disney Blog Carnival.  Click the link to see more great Disney articles!
 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Coral Reef

I must say, the main reason to check out Coral Reef is for the atmosphere.  There's really nothing like dining next to a giant aquarium.  There's a huge turtle and even a shark in there!  It's awesome!  During our meal there, we were seated just one table away from the tank, and that was definitely the focus of the meal.

We arrived a bit late to our reservation due to some extended socializing with JL from the Disney Driven Life (and the fact that we simply had to stay to watch her kids talk to Crush in Turtle Talk!).  That said, once we arrived, we were seated within five or ten minutes in a prime location!

James started with the lobster soup, which he didn't like at all.  I had a caesar salad, which was your everyday salad.  Needless to say, our appetizers weren't stunning, but later our server didn't charge us for the soup, which more than made up for it.  We both had the New York Strip for dinner, and it was good.  Maybe we were spoiled from our New York Strips at Le Cellier the previous day, but we weren't wowed by the food at Coral Reef.  Overall, I'd say the food was consistently good (except James' soup, but the fact that he didn't like it doesn't mean it wasn't good), but it wasn't any special.  Maybe that's what you get for ordering steak at a seafood restaurant.

Regardless of the food, as I said earlier, the real draw of Coral Reef is the fish tank.  While we were eating dinner, some scuba divers came down with video cameras.  I believe some were video taping the sea-life while others were being trained for future scuba diver-y things.  It was so interesting to be seated so close to the tank.  If you or someone in your family is really interested in sea-life, you'd want to check out this restaurant.

I must say, overall my impression of Coral Reef was average.  Nothing was bad about our experience, but nothing really stood out.  We might return one day, but there are certainly many other restaurants I'd want to repeat or try for the first time before our next trip to this one.  Then again, maybe it was just a fluke (get it?!).  The bright side to this restaurant is that it's great to keep kids occupied.  You get a guide with the different types of fish in the tank, and it's fun to try to identify them.  Unfortunately, if you're not seated right by the tank, kids might try to get up close to it, disturbing people at the tables near the tanks.

Have you ever dined at Coral Reef?  What was your opinion on it?  Did you have an average experience like we did, or did yours stand out (good or bad)?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Check it out: InnerMouse

I haven't done a podcast review in a while because I haven't started listening to any new podcasts in a while.  That said, a brand new podcast/vidcast has recently begun, and this one should definitely be on your radar.  It's called InnerMouse, and it's for people striving to lead a Disney Driven Life.

If you're a Disney Driven Life (DDL) reader, then you will naturally love InnerMouse.  If you're not, then you should be.  If you're reading this blog, then you're likely living a Disney driven lifestyle, and you are likely what the DDL likes to call a Neurotic Disney Person (NDP).  So get over to thedisneydrivenlife.com, be counted as an NDP, and then start listening to InnerMouse!

InnerMouse is a weekly vidcast that is streamed live on Tuesday nights, complete with an awesome chat room where you can talk to your fellow viewers.  The time varies from week to week, and next week (October 5) it will be beginning at 8pm.  There is a pre-show that will start at 7:30, and there is also a post-show that goes on past the ending of the official episode.  If you can't make the live streaming, episodes are posted on thedisneydrivenlife.com and will hopefully soon be on iTunes.

The hosts of InnerMouse are what makes it such an awesome podcast.  JL is Neurotic Disney Mom #1 and the creator of the Disney Driven Life, John is a columnist for the Disney Food Blog, Scott is the creator of collectthemouse.com, and Nicole is a Neurotic Disney Individual extraordinaire and - get this - a college student!  If you don't have reason to check out this vidcast now, I don't know what will get you to.  The hosts all have tons of knowledge on living Disney driven lives, and each episode is about Disney in different aspects of everyday life.  Recent episodes talked about Disney in education, food, and social media.  The episodes are about an hour long, and I definitely recommend making time in your busy schedules to watch!

Do you watch InnerMouse?  What do you think of it?  Do you enjoy the live chat room while watching the live streaming as much as I do?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TripIt in Action

Quite a while ago, I wrote a blog post about a really cool way to organize your travel:  Tripit.  I talked about how you can use TripIt on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry as well as on your computer to organize and view your travel plans.  I also mentioned a really awesome feature called the Itinerator that you email your travel plans to, and it automagically (see what I did there!) inserts the important information into your TripIt trip.  All of that stuff is really cool, and if you're interested in learning about TripIt's features, I suggest you check that post out.  This, on the other hand, is about TripIt in action.

Although you can't edit your trip using the mobile TripIt applications, they're still very useful for viewing plans.  Before I left for Walt Disney World, I added all my important information into TripIt.  I added my flight information, hotel reservation, restaurant confirmation numbers and times, etc.  I also put in all the park hours, parades, and fireworks, so I could have all that information at my fingertips.  This became extremely useful on our trip.

For starters, I was able to use the park information to see what parks were open late and when parades and fireworks shows were.  That way, when we didn't have anything in particular planned for a certain night, we could simply pull our phones out to see if there were nighttime extra magic hours or two parades or Fantasmic.  I used the restaurant information to hold confirmation numbers in case anything went wrong (luckily nothing did) and to remind us of ADR times.  We didn't have to memorize all our ADRs because every now and then, I'd pull my phone out and check if we had anything planned.

I also added little notes here and there in TripIt as reminders of things I may have wanted to try.  For example, I added a "Tangierine Cafe?" note to an Epcot day as a reminder that I wanted to try lunch there.  It wasn't anything definite like an ADR, but it was a nice way to remember I wanted to try something new instead of eating at the Electric Umbrella or something.

Finally, TripIt came through in the clutch when I remembered that I had to check in to my Southwest flight a little later than I should have.  Instead of checking in exactly 24 hours ahead of time, I realized about 20 minutes too late.  TripIt, however, had my confirmation number ready to go, so I could quickly copy it and check in to our flight.  We only got mid-B boarding passes, but it saved tons of time over having to dig through my email looking for my flight confirmation, and when you're getting boarding passes, every second counts.

Overall, TripIt was a huge asset in the parks, from park information to restaurant information to reminders.  Technology is definitely your friend, and I highly recommend this awesome travel website/app to anyone who travels anywhere.  Sign up at tripit.com if you're interested!

Do you use TripIt?  Have you ever used it in the parks?  How did it work out for you?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Le Cellier

Le Cellier was one of the places that I was most excited about trying on our recent August trip, though I must admit, I was afraid it would be overrated.  Amongst all the hype about this restaurant was also a lot of mixed reviews.  Whether the bad reviews were people expecting too much or the restaurant having some off days, I must say, our experience was absolutely amazing.

I must admit, checking in at Le Cellier and watching walk-ups get turned away while we waited to be seated for our reservation made me feel very exclusive.  Once we were seated, our hostess explained that each section of the restaurant represented a different province, though I don't remember in which we were seated.  Soon our waiter came, took our orders, and brought us our breads.  Each bread symbolized something, but all I can remember of this speech was staring longingly at the pretzel bread until our waiter walked away, so I could dig in!  The pretzel bread was awesome!  Yum!
Semi-blurry New York Strip picture.

James got the famous cheddar soup as an appetizer, although neither of us really liked it.  Oh well.  Soon, however, our entrees came, which we both loved!  We both got the New York Strip, and it was so good!  James said multiple times that it was the best meal of the trip.  The steak was one of the best I've ever had, and it was cooked perfectly.  It came with a potato gratin that I didn't much care for, but I didn't mind, since it only would have taken up room in my stomach that I had reserved for the steak!  We visited for lunch, and I'm really glad that the New York Strip is on the lunch menu.  I can't say enough good things about it!

For dessert, James had some type of not-so-adventurous ice cream or sorbet, while I had the Chocolate Moose.  This was the best dessert ever!  Adorable AND delicious!  The cookies that made up the ears and tongue were soooo good, and the chocolate mousse was also delicious!  I was very, very pleased with this dessert, though I couldn't finish it because I was so full.

Overall, our meal was fantastic.  So good, in fact, that James and I decided to change an ADR that we had for January and replace it with another Le Cellier lunch ADR.  Before our recent trip, I thought we'd be disappointed with eating lunch instead of dinner there, but we both thought it was very good!  A definite must-try in our opinions!

Have you ever been to Le Cellier?  What did you think of it?  Overrated or delicious?  Let me know in a comment,  a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Twitter!
 
Update:  A second visit to Le Cellier proved equally as fantastic.  The quality is really here, and I would even spend two dining credits on this restaurant.  It's certainly comparable, if not better, than Yachtsman Steakhouse which is already two.